Of the many television specials on television marking the 20th anniversary of September 11, one that stood out was last week’s two-hour edition of public television’s “Frontline”, “America After 9/11.”
It was a well-told chronicle, a glimpse into everything that happened since that fateful day, from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the madness of the future King Trump.
An image that stood out: on the night of the tragedy, about 150 members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, stood on the steps of the Capitol, some arms in, chanting “God Bless America”. Be careful, these are the same steps that the rioters climbed to assault and possibly kill the men and women who worked inside on January 6, 2021.
The sight of those lawmakers singing about 9/11 was something – and something that would be nearly impossible to recreate in today’s era of petty rhetoric and feverish accusations. The Capitol had been a September 11 target for terrorists as surely as the mob that attempted to take over Congress on January 6. Without a doubt, the plane that was shot down near Shanksville, Pa., Was aimed at the dome of our national legislature. . What a horrible and terrifying disaster that would have been, further multiplying our panic and revulsion.
Each of us who were there has our own stories from that day – I stood on the corner by my apartment watching the towers burn. And yet, among everyone’s memories, something else struck me in the last few days; not only the remarkable unity of the nation in the aftermath of the disaster – selflessness and heroism – but also the speed with which DC lobbyists and their clients leapt to profit from the calamity.
It is happening again today. Amid the COVID pandemic and disasters caused by fires and floods, the power-hungry residents of K Street and his associates are doing their best to obstruct or completely stop laws that could take away even the smallest slice of their wealth. immense wealth to help the rest of us. This, as the virus continues to reign and homes and businesses are destroyed by fires and floods. Together, hundreds of thousands of American lives have been lost, far more than the 3,000 so severely murdered on September 11.
My colleague and friend Bill Moyers recalled that 20 years ago, just a day after the attacks, a day in the vortex of horrors, loss and heartache, many senators called for a swift review of the proposal. of President George W. Bush to subsidize the biggest and the richest energy companies.
“While America was crying, they were marauding,” Moyers observed in a speech he gave to an environmental group just weeks after 9/11. “A member of Congress even suggested that eco-terrorists could be behind the attacks. And with this vilification, he and his ilk have gone on the offensive in Congress, trying to tie massive subsidies for oil, coal, gas and nuclear companies to a defense bill.
“To a defense bill! What an insult to the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Racking up billions of dollars in corporate welfare on a defense bill in an emergency like 9/11 was disgusting to the nostrils and an outrage against democracy. They were counting on patriotism to distract us from their plunder, counting on us to stand at attention, hand on heart, pledging allegiance to the flag, while they picked up our pockets.
… Flash forward until today. Since September 11, no greedy tiger has changed its stripes, no leopard has changed its spots – no, the big cats continue to rule. According to Thursday’s edition of The Times, a report from Biden’s Treasury Department notes: “The richest 1% of Americans are the nation’s most egregious tax evaders, paying no up to $ 163 billion in taxes due per year …
“Tax compliance rates are high for low- and middle-income workers who have their taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks. The rich, however, can use accounting loopholes to protect their tax obligations. “
No wonder, then, that even in the midst of widespread contagion and natural disasters, the wealthiest are once again armed at the prospect of seeing their money cut for the greater good of the country. The Times reports “a well-funded effort to defeat a tax hike proposal that is crucial to fund the $ 3.5 trillion social spending bill at the heart of President Biden’s agenda.” The legislation is a ten-year measure “to tackle climate change and rebuild the country’s social safety net, with paid family and medical leave, expanded public education, new health insurance benefits and more.” The committee’s jurisdiction includes much of this social policy, but also the tax increases necessary to pay for it. “
… Not so fast. Here are the usual Conservative suspects, armed to the teeth of dirty money: Americans for Tax Reform by Grover Norquist, the Business Roundtable, the American Chamber of Commerce. And leading the pack, former Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, now the chief lobbyist for the anti-tax effort, subtly threatening her former colleagues with harsh re-elections and even tougher attempts to raise money for them. campaigns.
Already, experts inside the Beltway are looking at Biden’s proposed tax increases that will succeed, fail, or be diluted to almost nothing. The plutocrats behind the fight against the plans almost always have the final say because they have the most money.
As another friend and colleague, Robert Reich points out, “Corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenues have fallen from 25% in the 1950s to 7% today, while income taxes and payroll taxes have fallen from 25% in the 1950s to 7% today. made up the difference. If we are to pay for everything America needs, corporate taxes must rise dramatically. “
We must also provide the necessary funds for the IRS to enforce the rules and crack down on loopholes beloved by the rich. In the aforementioned Treasury Department report, Natasha Sarin, Assistant Undersecretary for Microeconomics, writes: “In order for the IRS to properly enforce tax laws against high incomes and large corporations, it needs funds to hire and train tax officers who can decipher their thousands of pages. sophisticated tax returns. It must also have access to information on the opaque income streams – such as property and partnership income – that flow disproportionately to the top earners. “
Economic inequalities have only worsened during the pandemic. The rich have gotten so much richer even as benefits for many unemployed have expired. People have died here in New York City when their illegal basement apartments were flooded. They couldn’t afford anything else.
These tax breaks granted to his fellow plutocrats by Donald Trump only “worsened inequalities”, according to an economist. The pandemic, hurricanes and wildfires are only making things exponentially worse. And all this on behalf of the people who wrap themselves in the flag and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with enthusiasm. Moyers recalled that “HL Mencken was right when he said that when you hear some people talk about their love for the country, it’s a sign that they expect to be paid for it. “
The class war that they are waging against the rest of us is our true “eternal war”.
Michael Winship is Schumann’s Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a former senior researcher in the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former chairman of the Writers Guild of America East.